A pack of cigarettes in Mississippi costs around $5.00 and the state legislature is currently looking at a bill that would increase the taxes on cigarettes.
With health advocacy groups urging the legislature to make the cost of smoking higher as a way of pricing smokers out of the potentially deadly habit. Some legislators listened and drafted bills to raise taxes from the current 68 cents per pack to at least $1.50 per pack, which would put the tax right at $2.18.
Senator Joey Fillingane said that while none of the bills survived deadlines there is a bond bill still on the table that could be amended to increase cigarette taxes.
“The higher the cost of a pack of cigarettes the less likely a young person is to start smoking,” Fillingane said.
Fillingane added that there are two sides to the argument.
“The conservative side of the argument is that we are a free society, it’s a legal product and if people want to use it and kill themselves by using that then let them do it,” Fillingane said. “Why should we regulate their use through a tax?”
Senator Brice Wiggins who also chairs the Senate Medicaid committee filed one of the tobacco tax bills and said that in his bill any of the money that would come from the tax would go straight to help fund Medicaid.
“When you talk to people across the board, raising the cigarette tax to a level that discourages smoking increases health outcomes,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins added that the overall concept of the tax is simply taking a private sector insurance policy and apply it to the government.
“In the commercial and private sector, you pay an extra premium because you choose to smoke…” Wiggins said.